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City tells SoMa hotel to scale back looming design

Proposed 21-story Second Street addition will wait on new neighborhood plan

Rendering of the proposed 21-story hotel on Second Street. SOM

The tentative designs for a 21-story mixed-use building that would principally serve as a hotel (waiting in the wings to replace a 130-car parking lot at 350 Second) looked remarkably unremarkable.

The proposed Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill plan put out last year for the 200-foot building plus 85-foot podium was decidedly unadventurous, although it does feature a towering mural on one side, plus a public plaza.

However, city planners found it a bit too much for the Second Street streetscape, according to a preliminary assessment released in December. Now Indiana-based developer Englewood is angling for a 21-story building in an area presently zoned for 130 feet.

“The Department encourages architectural detailing to express a more residential quality and scale through the choice of materials, texture, and opacity,” said the planners, adding, “The base of the building should be accentuated [...] with projections and other fine-grained and pedestrian-scaled elements.”

The parcels today.
Right in the midst of an are the city has big plans for.
SF Planning

The finished design will have to set the upper stories back to allow a little sun by, and a proposed 16-foot roof parapet (the maximum allowed) is probably a little excessive, according to planners.

In other words: How about something a little less looming and a bit more humanistic?

The scale of the proposed hotel is perhaps too much as well. It’s imagined at 480 rooms plus 4,600-square-feet of commercial space on the street. But under present zoning, the hotel counts as retail space—meaning that the whole building now has too much retail for the block.

In fact, planners point out that a building this size wouldn’t work at all unless a particular version of the pending Central Corridor plan goes forward.

Right now, 350 Second Street is a mere 130-space parking lot of no particular note. But it rubs elbows with a number of big projects, including the Central Subway corridor and Central SoMa plans still in the works.

Lucky for the hotel proposal, the environment around Second Street, which is ever growing, is becoming one in which a sizable new addition feels right at home.